Wednesday, October 14, 2015


UPDATED:  11:00 AM

A more detailed analysis of the relative merits of challenger McCleaster compared to incumbents Kiesling, Griffith and Cerreta

DISCLAIMER:  The views express in the blog are the exclusive views of Martin Olson, author of The Stark County Political Report and ARE NOT the views of the North Canton Chamber of Commerce, Doug Lane and Randy Smith.

The videos linked to by the SCPR from the North Canton Chamber of Commerce provided online link speak for themselves in terms of the interviewers approach subject, of course, to viewers interpretation of the presentation.


Link to Part 1 which dealt with the three competitive ward races (Wards 2, 3 & 4)

The Stark County Political Report has long maintained that North Canton City Council is the most troubled legislative political subdivision in all of Stark County.

It has been quite a fall for this body from the days that Daryl Revoldt was council president and by force of his experience and his temperament kept council in touch with its constituents.

Clearly, this council as presently constituted with Council president Dan "Jeff" Peters (Ward 2) leading the way with the likes of Councilwoman Marcia Kiesling (at-large), Stephanie Werren (Ward 3) and Doug Foltz (Ward 1) [listed in the degree of citizen hostility that The Report thinks each deserves], is "out-of-touch" with the will of North Cantonians and democratic-republican values on/in how it conducts the legislative branch of North Canton government.

The four listed above the graphic have in the opinion of the SCPR used Law Director Tim Fox as their hammer on a handful of citizen activists to beat down their initiatives for a democratic-republican consistent North Canton government structure in terms of accessibility, openness, transparency, communicativeness and accountability.

The remaining incumbents are to be chastised not so much as being aggressively hostile to those who engage council on the public square, but by their "go along, to get along" attitude vis-a-vis Peters, Kiesling, Werren and Foltz.

As we all know, some very bad things can happen in the body politic when the likes of Cerreta (at large), Griffith (at large) and Fonte (Ward 4) standby and do nothing to stop the political abuse.

The Report knows that "abuse" is a pretty strong word.  Of course in this context it is 'political' abuse of fundamental democratic-republican system of government principles that yours truly is referencing.

Nonetheless, "political abuse of civic active citizens" in a phrase yours truly chooses to use to describe what Peters, Kiesling, Werren and Foltz are doing to those North Canton citizens who question the substantive decisions of council and do so largely through their handpicked law director Tim Fox (with Peters as personnel committee chairman having been the promoter of) as the articulator of a response in the mode of "the heavy hand of government."

The only remedy, it seems to the SCPR, is for North Canton citizens to replace a number of incumbents in this election season.

The preference for voter removal are, of course, Peters, Kiesling and Werren.

Unfortunately, the longest serving member of council and a person who ought to know better by virtue of how he was handled by Canton government at the executive level when he was a Parks Department employee, namely, Ward 1 Council Doug Foltz has no opponent.

However, he is the weakest link in the change which the SCPR hereby names "the gang of four" and The Report believes that if either Peters, Kiesling or Werren or any combination thereof loses on November 3rd, then Foltz is a possibility to forge a link with newly elected councilpersons to provide Fox with new marching orders.

Any combination of challengers and incumbents that can get to a working majority of four to rein in Law Director Tim Fox who apparently understands that it "Katy bar the door" in terms of his "over-the-top" methods, the SCPR thinks, in managing engaged citizens and their petitions for their perceptions of needed actions, changes, responsiveness in the way North Canton government connect with its citizenry.

The Report believes that a voter retention of Peters, Kiesling and Werren would be an endorsement of the hostility that "the gang of four" and any North Canton voter who voted for them should not be heard to complain when a voter gets the treatment that council generally hands out to disagreeable petitioning citizens.

Unfortunately, voters are largely ignorant of what goes on in the counsels of government which ignorance the likes of Peters, Kiesling and Werren rely on in getting reelected.

While the SCPR preference is for North Canton voters to replace Peters, Kiesling and Werren; the removal of any one of the three will be the beginning of a changed attitude of North Canton City Council vis-a-vis the North Canton civically engaged public.

Now that yours truly as weighed in, The Report herein links readers of this blog with the work of the North Chamber of Commerce (NCCC) and its executive director Doug Lane.

Readers of the SCPR know that yours truly is an opinion blog writer who substantiates opinion with documented/videotaped evidence for readers to agree with or disagree with.

Over the past several years, the SCPR has written numerous blogs on North Canton Council and its various members.  All one has to do is "Google" the councilperson's name or in the case of Law Director Tim Fox his name and "Google" will return many links.

But the NCCC/Lane presentation is pretty objective.

Lane's interviews, in particular, show no bias.

However, the SCPR cannot say the same for Randy Smith, a former NCC board member.

But his - to the SCPR - "cloying" to his interviewees is within the bounds of political decency.

While Lane is respectful to each of those he interviews, he does not avoid the overarching issue which anyone who knows North Canton council is well aware of, which is to say, the acerbic relations between various council members (of course, the SCPR focuses on "the gang of four") and the seemingly unchecked law director Tim Fox.

Unfortunately, Councilman Dan "Jeff" Peters and Councilwoman Stephanie Werren get passes on these issues on their respective Randy Smith conducted interviews.

After seeing all the interviews, the SCPR notes that Lane did the interviews all the challengers except for Fonte, who interestingly enough, has never been elected to council but is serving out the rest of the term of former long time councilman Jon Snyder (also a former council president).

Fonte opponent Kathy Snyder is Jon's wife.

The rest of the sitting councilpersons got Smith as their interrogator.


Nevertheless, despite the weakness of the Smith interviews on the salient points, the SCPR repeats it compliment to the North Canton Chamber of Commerce and Executive Director Doug Lane for taking on and completing this project.

Would that Chambers of Commerce throughout Stark County do a similar public service for its citizens.

Today's NCC links (at the end of this blog) are to the "at-large" video interviews.

But first a more detailed look at the at-large race.

Among the at-large candidates, there is only one challenger; namely, Jamie McCleaster.

McCleaster is making a second try having lost narrowly in the 2013 North Canton City County at-large contest, to wit:

First time out-of-the-gate and he loses to bottom-dweller-incumbent Dan Griffith by only 183 votes.

McCleaster tells the SCPR he is optimistic as being one of the top three finishers of three to be elected.

Of all North Canton's community activists, the SCPR see McCleaster as the one who has the most balanced and comprehensive plan of action if elected.

Reviewing the NCC video linked to at the end of this blog, McCleaster talks about:

  • Taking measures to eliminate projected deficit spending in years going forward by North Canton government,
    • Note:  Deficient spending - as the SCPR understands his point - in the sense that each year the carryover of late is getting smaller and smaller,
  • Changing the cap at which North Canton government department heads can spend taxpayer money without first having he approval of council
    • Note:  McCleaster says that the level is now $50,000 and suggests by comparing to Plain Township that it ought to be more like $3,000
  • A "us versus them" mentality that currently exists between the presently constituted membership on council and any citizen(s) who engage this council, and
  • A lack of leadership at the head of council which the SCPR takes to be reflection on the quality or if you will the non-quality of leadership presently administered by Ward 2 councilman and council president Dan "Jeff" Peters,

As regular readers of the SCPR know, The Report is concerned about the lack of new generations of leaders coming forth to gain elective office across the political subdivisions of Stark County government.

The Report has pointed out:

  • Alliance councilwoman Julie Jakmides,
  • Canton councilmen
    • Kevin Fisher, Ward 5 councilman,
    • John Mariol, Ward 7 councilman,
    • Edmond Mack, Ward 8 councilman,
  • Massillon councilman Ed Lewis
as being examples of an infusion of a invigorated and fresher perspective of ways to improve government in the county.

And, of course, Jamie McCleaster fits that bill for North Canton.

It would be a huge mistake for North Cantonians not to place McCleaster on North Canton City Council this time around.

The SCPR thinks the odd person out might be one term councilman Dan Griffith.  However, McCleaster hopes that it is veteran councilwoman Marcia Kiesling who has been around since the early 2000s except for one election loss somewhere around 2005.

Kiesling's elective removal - as stated elsewhere in the blog - is preferred as there may actually be some hope that Griffith (a relatively young person) can grow and develop in his leadership skills and actually contribute in a wholesome way to the improvement of North Canton.

The Report sees Kiesling as yesterday's news who is set in her ways and by virtue of her attitude is going to continue to be a reactive councilperson rather than a proactive one.

There is a lot of bad blood between Kiesling and McCleaster inasmuch as she filed an elections complaint against him in the 2013 election.

A LINK that summarizes that dispute.

Right now, McCleaster tells The Report that his appeal of an adverse Elections Commission finding to the Court of Common Pleas for Franklin County has been stayed pending the outcome of a pending case (at a Court of Appeals level) based on the same Ohio Election law provision on which the adverse McCleaster ruling was made in 2013 by the Elections Commission.

He says that the U.S. Supreme Court has already invalidated that Ohio law and that when the Ohio appellate case is decided on the basis of the Supreme Court case then the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas will move forward on his appeal, which, to say it again, he is confident will resolve all issues in his favor.

Another reason McCleaster gives as wanting Kiesling to be the odd-person-out is her having along with Ward 2 councilman Dan "Jeff" Peters, Ward 3 councilwoman Stephanie Werren and cormer councilman Jon Snyder (Ward 4) continued to accept having healthcare insurance premiums paid by North Canton taxpayers notwithstanding a vote by North Cantonians by a 71.76% to 28.24% in November, 2012 (an ordinance put together by Ward 3 council candidate Chuck Osborne) express the will of the people of North Canton that councilpersons who had alternative sources of healthcare insurance premium benefits not be eligible to have them paid from North Canton government funds.

The basis on which they continued accept benefits was an opinion by Law Director Fox that Osborne's ordinance was invalid because it conflicted with the North Canton government charter.

One of the beefs that the SCPR has with council is that they allowed the the Fox opinion (written November 15, 2013) to be hidden from the North Canton public until Mayor David Held forced it out on February 27, 2014 (LINK) under great public pressure.

Just another in the long list of anti-democratic republican values demonstrated by a majority of its members over the last several years.

Council did pass ultimately pass a mirror ordinance to the one approved by North Cantonians in 2012.

Eventually all the aforesaid councilpersons repaid the premiums to the North Canton treasury.

One of the things that North Canton voters should note in Marcia Kiesling's response to the NCC's Randy Smith's questions in the video linked to below is her continuing to be dug in on blaming others for what one might call Healthcaregate.  She does sort of bring North Canton's council into the mix of sharing blame for the debacle.  But not really in the view of the SCPR.  Her emphasis is the vindication of the courts having sided with the city.  Implied in her response is a continuing stance of "us against them" in terms of North Canton City Council in relation to citizens who seek council implementation of core democratic-republican values (e.g. openness, transparency, greater access, communication, responsiveness and accountability) into the sinew of North Canton government.

Also troubling in the videos was Mark Cerreta comment on citizen engagement, to wit: "a lot of this stuff is coming from the same people."  To The Report this is code for saying these are people to be ignored.

And yet he talks about the team concept in which players have comPLEmentary roles as being the fundamental way in which to be productive for the good of the whole.

This kind of disconnect tells the SCPR that he is one of those council members who has bought into the gang of four line and sits by and allows the abuse of citizen political rights if one speaks/objects more than their allocated share as defined by whom?  City council members, of course.

Apparently, there is some unwritten rule known only to North Canton council members as to:
  • how often one can raise issues,
  • how many initiative petitions can one generate,
  • how may court actions on can bring, and
  • how many public records requests initiate,
and still be taken by elected representatives as being credible and worthy of being taken seriously as having something worthwhile to contribute to the well being of North Canton.

Isn't that interesting?

To sum up The Stark County Political Report's take on North Canton City Council as presently constituted, there are no committed small letter "d" democrats in the sense that they are willing to abide the messiness of democracy and remain respectful of the mess generators.

But nobody on council seems willing to take a look at Law Director Tim Fox and the high-handed way the SCPR thinks he interacts with citizens seeking information about the operations of North Canton government.

Think maybe just maybe that Fox might also be looked at by the likes of Councilman Cerreta as possibly being the cause of  "a lot of [the] stuff ... coming from ... people?"

North Canton City Council processes seem to be about the comfort level of the councilpersons themselves.  And as the SCPR has said many times before, council as presently constituted appears to be using Fox as the enforcer-in-chief to insulate them from petitioning citizens.

A couple of them (Kiesling and Werren) seem hard pressed to make each and every council meeting and yet the run for re-election?

Now onto the video links of NCCC interviews with at large candidates McCleaster, Kiesling, Cerreta and Griffith.

The SCPR encourages readers to spread the word to North Canton voters about the NCC's qualitative work to have an informed voter vote on the November 3rd council races.






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